Outer Banks Brewing Station

Brew Station Outer BanksMost everyone on the Outer Banks knows where the Outer Banks Brewing Station is located. It’s a very interesting building, designed by local architect Ben Cahoon, an architectural nod to the turn-of-the-century lifesaving stations including a 30 foot boat-shaped bar and brick inlays in the dining room floor that point to the ocean and were collected over the years from cottage debris that washed to shore. Located at Milepost 8.5 on the bypass in Kill Devil Hills, what makes it most noticeable is the wind turbine in the backyard, and yes, it is functional. But, what the Brewing Station is really known for is excellent beer and food and great live entertainment.

The story goes that owners Eric Reece and Aubrey Davis, Peace Corps volunteers-Thailand-1991, came up with the idea of a brewpub that would also serve excellent food. Fast forward 10 years, and the restaurant is open in Kill Devil Hills. From the beginning the beer they brewed caught everyone’s attention. There are always at least five of their own brews on tap, each full of flavor and true to the style it represents. One of the best ways to try the brews is to order a flight, which is four 5-ounce pours.

Favorite brews definitely vary depending on the consumer. My personal favorite is the lemongrass wheat beer, which is refreshing, goes with everything on the menu and has a nice little snap to it.

BrewStation - DD&DThose who frequent OBBS regularly soon come to realize that as good as the beer is the food can easily compete. Chef Pok Choeichom, who created some of the most memorable Brewing Station dishes, recently moved on to open his own restaurant, Pok’s Art. His move was gradual and he passed the reigns to his sous chef, Tony Duman, making this a seamless transition. Which is another way of saying the food is just as good as it’s always been.

They serve both lunch and dinner and neither will disappoint. The style is pub fare, but the preparation is definitely raised a few levels, and the desserts by Tina MacKenzie are absolutely spectacular!

The magic starts with the brews, moves on to the food and ends with the music. The level of talent showcased at the Brewing Station is remarkably high. After the dinner rush, the east end of the building becomes a dance area with open space for concerts. They move the tables out, and for more well-known groups, they seem to fit a few hundred people in the facility.

It’s definitely a place to visit while on the Outer Banks. In many ways the Brewing Station has become an icon for many of the things residents appreciate about our area-great food, a casual atmosphere, fantastic beer and music-and to top it off, they care about the environment. If you’re bringing the kids, make sure to try the birch beer. Every kid who has tried it has raved about the flavor.

Outer Banks Restaurant
600 South Croatan Hwy
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Phone: 252 449 2739

Fundraising on the Outer Banks

Duck & Wine FestivalOne of the most fulfilling parts about living on the Outer Banks is taking part in raising money for various charities. It’s almost always local charities, because one of the things that defines the Outer Banks community is that we take care of our own. National charities and nonprofits do not have as strong of a presence in the local community.

There are a number of different ways that local organizations go about raising funds, but there are some things they all have in common: they have to be fun, it doesn’t hurt to have food, wine and live music, and there has to be something truly unique about each one.

The Duck & Wine Festival is a prime example of these “requirements.” In an effort to raise money for the Currituck-Dare Community Foundation, the festival takes place at the Waterfront Shops on the northern end of the Duck Boardwalk in the town of Duck, NC. The concept follows a logical pattern with a marvelous outcome. Gather all of the best chefs on the Outer Banks, tell them every dish must be based around duck, pair the dishes with wine, provide live music and (hope for) ideal weather, and you have the perfect fundraiser.

The Mustang Spring Jam in May is another exciting event for Outer Banks locals and visitors. With the word “mustang” in the title, there can be little doubt that this is a fundraiser for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the organization that manages the Spanish Mustang herd north of where the paved road ends in Corolla.

Mike Dianna of Mike Dianna’s Grill Room has been putting on this event for the last few years and has done an outstanding job of getting some great musical talent to the Outer Banks. This fundraiser is all about music, although there is beer, wine and food available.

The Mustang Music Festival is the fall version of this event. While the Spring Jam is a one day affair, the Music Festival takes an entire weekend. One of the greatest aspects of the Mustang Music Series is how family friendly the events are.

Not as much fundraising occurs once summer begins, primarily because everyone is way too busy working the tourist season to put the time in for a successful event. However, the Red Nose Wine Festival is the exception to the rule. Taking place in the middle of July, it is tons of fun and features wine, food and live music.

The Red Nose Wine Festival is a fundraiser for the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Not every event uses wine to raise money.

Another amazing fundraiser is the Outer Banks Marathon, which was one of the primary sources of funding for the Dare Education Foundation in its first few years. It now also supports the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. Admittedly, running 26.2 miles is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the dedicated thousand who turn up each year, the course takes the runners through some of the most beautiful and unique parts of the Outer Banks. And for those who want to participate but don’t feel comfortable going all the way, they can take part in the Half Marathon of 13.1 miles.

Perhaps one of the most unique fundraisers, the Womanless Beauty Pageant at Kelly’s Outer Banks Tavern proves that most men should NOT attempt to get in touch with their feminine sides. But the event is hilarious, hugely successful and even more unique because each contestant is able to raise money for the charity of their choice.

It’s all part of the Outer Banks way of thinking when it comes to helping our community. The desire to do something meaningful is strong among the locals. The way we go about doing it… that may be a little different.

Sea Turtles on the Outer Banks

Sea Turtles Outer BanksSoft sand and vast uncrowded beaches are just two reasons thousands of visitors pack their cars, load up their families and head to the Outer Banks.  But, it is not just people who look to the Outer Banks as the perfect summertime haven.

From mid-May to mid-September sea turtles emerge from the surf and onto the beach for the purpose of laying eggs.  This activity tends to be more active on the southern beaches, but if you’re vacationing on the Outer Banks from the southern island of Ocracoke and north to the town of Duck, you may experience egg laying or the birth of baby sea turtles.

The loggerhead is the most common, although three other species periodically appear—the leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley and the green sea turtle.  Regardless of species, they are all considered threatened or endangered, so we should behave in a protective manner towards them.

Mother turtles usually come ashore at night.  Very nearsighted, they react to light, so flashlights, flash photography or any other bright lights should be avoided.  Typically the female will crawl to the edge of the dune line, dig a nest, deposit on average 110 eggs, push sand to cover them and crawl back to sea.

For anyone lucky enough to come across this miracle cycle of life, please never stand in front of them and remain at least 20 feet away from the nest.  When on land sea turtles are easily disoriented, and unexplained movement in front of them could cause the turtle to journey back to the ocean.

Next, make a note of where the nest is located and contact N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles), an Outer Banks organization celebrating its 20th year protecting sea turtles. A volunteer will then arrive to mark the site, and the organization will monitor the nest.  The N.E.S.T. phone number is (252) 441-8622.

There are additional ways to identify the location of a nest. When the female comes ashore her flippers leave a distinct pattern in the sand called a crawl. It is fairly easy to identify arrival and departure crawls by the direction of sand disturbance.  If the high point of the flipper trail is toward the ocean, it’s an arrival crawl, caused by the turtle pushing the sand back and away from her as she makes her way to the nesting site.

Incubation for the eggs varies but averages is 55 days.  Summer nesting behavior results in hatchlings generally emerging between August and October. The tumbling and rolling nature of hatchings is referred to as “sea turtle boil” when baby turtles emerge from their nest and instinctively bobble towards the surf.

Endangered and threatened species, sea turtles are afforded considerable protection, and harassing or injuring a sea turtle is illegal.

The organization N.E.S.T. has taken the lead in protecting sea turtle habitat and lives. Working in close cooperation with the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center was established at the aquarium.  A state-of-the-art facility to treat injured sea turtles, the center is open to the public and provides abundant information about how sea turtles are treated when injured and what can be done to improve their environment.

Outer Banks Town Highlights

During your next Outer Banks vacation, why not schedule an adventure that includes exploring a few unique town highlights? This is a great way to learn more about Outer Banks’ towns and communities, while enjoying time spent with family and friends. Some selections are well known, while others are hidden gems, but all allow visitors to explore extraordinary features of the Outer Banks.

COROLLA: Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
Located in Currituck Heritage Park, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education shares the grounds with the Whalehead Club and Currituck Beach Lighthouse, two sites that seem to receive all the press. The museum, though, is every bit as fascinating as its famous neighbors. This remarkable museum guides visitors through the history of Currituck Sound and its ecosystem and is filled with family friendly exhibits and hands-on demos.

DUCK: Duck Boardwalk
One of the most unique features in the town of Duck is its boardwalk. Not quite a mile in length, the boardwalk parallels the Currituck Sound shoreline. Constructed to be in harmony with the surroundings, the boardwalk provides a boat slip and kayak dock and offers views of beautiful Outer Banks sunsets.

Interspersed among the modern vacation homes along NC12 in Southern Shores are single story homes with flat roofs. Built in the late 1940s and early 50s, the flattops were the creation of artist Frank Stick and his son, David, a well-known Outer Banks writer. They are now considered outstanding examples of period architecture. In order to construct affordable homes for a burgeoning tourist industry, the father and son team used native woods and Outer Banks sand for the cement walls. These homes are privately owned, so please observe them from the roadway or multi-use path.

KITTY HAWK: Sandy Run Park
A remarkably beautiful location, Sandy Run Park, is located on The Woods Road next to the Kitty Hawk Garden Center. This area is a great introduction to the marsh and maritime forest environment that is so much a part of the Outer Banks ecology. The park is made up of a mile long loop trail that wanders through woodlands and circles a pond. Suitable for children of all ages, the park provides an observation platform, kayak launch sites and catch and release fishing piers. A camera is a must-have accessory for a visit.

Located on the west side of the Bypass in Kill Devil Hills, there is an older bright blue building with a winged horse out front. This building is home to the KDH Cooperative, an artist’s co-op that houses an extraordinary collection of art of most every kind, including oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel paintings, photography, ceramics, jewelry, fibers, pottery, glass, mosaic and metal art. It’s always staffed by one of the member artists, and the co-op consistently features some of the best art around.

NAGS HEAD: Jennette’s Pier
The most spectacular pier on the Outer Banks, Jennette’s Pier reaches 1000’ into the Atlantic Ocean. The newly constructed concrete structure replaces a historic wooden pier that was destroyed by Hurricane Isabelle. The pier is host to a number of annual events, workshops and family friendly activities that are regularly updated on their website. It is also a well known fishing location and is home to a small aquarium and gift shop that are a part of the NC Aquarium Society.

MANTEO: Roanoke Island Festival Park
A 25-acre waterfront park that is adjacent to downtown Manteo, the Roanoke Island Festival Park is a wonderful place to learn about our rich history while enjoying family friendly events and interactive displays. Don’t miss the Elizabeth II, a replica of a 16th century merchant ship, American Indian Town, The Settlement and The Roanoke Adventure Museum. The park also has an Indoor Theater and Outdoor Pavilion and hosts a multitude of seasonal performances and concerts.

Ladles Soups Outer Banks

ladles_KDHI was hooked the first time I went to Ladles in Kill Devil Hills and tasted their turkey chile. It’s just spicy enough to get your attention but not enough to kill the flavors of beans cooked to perfection and plenty of ground turkey. That bowl guaranteed a return visit.

When Laurie Harvin and Vicky Katona opened their doors in December of 2014, I remember remarking to a friend that it seemed like a dangerous, maybe even foolhardy strategy for an Outer Banks business.

OK, I must admit I was wrong and here’s why: The soups are created fresh everyday, sandwiches and salads are prepared when ordered and the prices are very reasonable. The result is tables filled with happy customers, occasional lines at the register and it’s become an instant new favorite place to meet for a delicious lunch or quick and nutritious dinner.

The fact that their newly opened restaurant has become a part of the Outer Banks social life is one unexpected surprise for the owners. “My most gratifying moments have been when I look out the window and see people who don’t know each other sitting, eating, talking and really enjoying themselves,” Vicky says. “ When they leave they have the beginnings of a new friendship, which is very gratifying.”

“It’s our community, it’s as if we’re all family, and it brings this wonderful feeling.” Laurie adds.

They seem an unlikely pair to open a restaurant. Other than a short stint in a fast food restaurant when Laurie was 16, neither of them had worked in food service. They were working in housekeeping at the Outer Banks Hospital and neither one of them felt this was their life’s calling.

Laurie was familiar with Ladles—a franchise business that started in Charleston, South Carolina—through her sister who lived in the city. They pulled resources, started looking for a location and a year later they were in business. “We started in January (2014), and it was a lot of work.” Vicky says.

Training in Charleston helped, but nothing could prepare them for what would happen when they opened their doors. “It was slow the first day,” Laurie says. “After that, it was lines all day long without stopping.”

Looking for ways to expand their reach, Laury and Vicky started offering catering, and according to Carolina Design’s employee, Julie Short, “They have awesome catering! We treated a few local businesses to lunch as a thank you and to extend best wishes for the New Year. Every company responded with positive reviews of their food and service.”

vegetable_beef_soupThis summer, they hope to take advantage of the take out window. Located in the building that formerly housed Arby’s, their hope is that customers will call in orders to pick up at the window.

In the meantime they keep turning out great soups and sandwiches. The chicken noodle soup would probably cure any head cold; the she crab soup is rich and filled with crab; their sandwiches are a meal in themselves but with a serving of soup it seems to take soup and sandwich to a new level. The other day I had their white bean and ham soup— the soup of the day. I immediately started lobbying for it to be on the regular menu. It is a fun place to go to . . . a place where smiles seem to be all around. That comes, perhaps, from a pair of partners that followed a path to something that gives meaning to their lives. “It’s like you can have your dreams come true,” Vicky says. “I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”

Ladles Soups Outer Banks
1901 South Croatan Hwy
Kill Devil Hills, NC
Milepost 9 3/4 next to nags head hammocks